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      Saying that humanity is currently the best off it has ever been (a dubious proposition in any case) is like saying “I’ve never been warmer” as you burn down your house. People like Pinker have been trotting out stats to claim that we’ve never been better off. Those stats are questionable, based on a definition […]
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These photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational.

Oh, no — THESE photos weren’t important at all:

Rape is Rape … Except When You’re a Female Detainee
When Obama Whitewashed Rape

The court order stipulated the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs taken from Abu Ghraib and six other prisons across Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Major General Antonio Taguba, who led the formal inquiry into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the photographs in question depict “torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.”

Explaining his decision to ignore the order, President Obama argued, “The most direct consequence of releasing [the photographs], I believe, would be to inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

I think I found the perfect keynote speaker for your college’s next Take Back the Night rally!

President Obama went on to add, apparently with no sense of shame whatsoever, “I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational.”

And as a precautionary measure against the possibility that rape is actually “sensational” — especially when perpetrated (and gleefully documented) by the U.S military — the Pentagon’s official position on this matter is that the photographs in question do not even exist. Indeed, it’s unlikely that any of this “rape” stuff even happened. There’s certainly no evidence to support such wild claims.

But what about the video Major General Taguba obtained during his investigation, which shows “a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee“? Don’t worry, that’s not “particularly sensational.” No need to fret! Move along! Also: that video doesn’t exist, and that never happened.

How about the photograph that depicts “an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner”? Or the photograph that shows “a male translator raping a male detainee”? Or the countless photographs which are said to document “sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube”? How about the photo that shows “a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts”?

That’s just a long list of “not particularly sensational”, misinformed speculation. Please try to remember: these photographs don’t even exist, according to the Obama Administration.

You could go read the whole thing but, it will probably make you sick. And then you wouldn’t want to know this:

Justice Department Ends Investigation Into Bush-Era Torture, With No Charges

Well, that’s that.

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Friday Morning: What’s Happening?

valentine-underpants-w-hearts-picking-up-paper-784998

Good morning everyone! These are the news stories that caught my eye this morning. Be sure to add your own links in the comments.

The All-Encompassing Health Care Nightmare

Boston Globe: Democrats oppose tax in health bill

To pay for the 10-year, $856 billion bill Baucus wants to tax high-value insurance plans, those worth $21,000 for a family and $8,000 for an individual. The Montana Democrat says those are “Cadillac plans’’ enjoyed by a small minority of Americans. Aides said about 10 percent of plans and 8 percent of taxpayers could be affected.

The tax, which President Obama embraced in his speech to Congress last week, is a major source of revenue for Baucus’s bill, bringing in an estimated $215 billion over 10 years. Baucus and other supporters of the measure say it would help drive down health care costs over the long term by encouraging companies to move toward less expensive health plans and workers to use less care.

But other Democratic senators fear that the tax would reach deep into middle-class pocketbooks, and labor unions are upset. Senators John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, members of the Finance Committee, say they want to limit the tax before signing off on the bill.

“We need to make it fairer to working people so that working folks don’t get dragged into this at a level where they just don’t have the incomes to support it,’’ Kerry told reporters after a closed-door committee meeting to discuss the bill.

Insurers and business groups also oppose the new tax and other fees in the bill, and the US Chamber of Commerce is wasting no time making its objections known.

New York Times: Rockefeller stands up for liberals on health care

All summer, the White House deferred to Senator Max Baucus, the Democrat from Montana who heads the Senate Finance Committee, as he negotiated with two moderate Democrats and three Republicans. Their failure to agree on a bipartisan bill left the administration scrambling to pass an overhaul with Democratic votes alone.

And that has emboldened liberals like the 72-year-old Mr. Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat. He heads the health subcommittee of Mr. Baucus’s panel, and yet he was relegated to the sidelines as the so-called Gang of Six talked and talked. Senate liberals are now pushing for an overhaul fully on Democratic terms — legislation more like that in the House, where liberal Democrats dominate.

Washington Post: Affordability Is Major Challenge for Reform

How to make insurance more affordable to the estimated 30 million uninsured people who would be required to buy coverage under the Baucus proposal is emerging as a central challenge as the long-awaited plan advances to full committee debate Tuesday. Democrats and Republicans alike worry that a bill intended to address one source of financial hardship — the skyrocketing cost of health care — could lead to another, in the form of hefty premiums.

“It’s very clear that the driving issue of this debate is affordability, particularly for middle-class folks. And the Democratic caucus is very much committed to getting this issue right,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a Finance Committee member who said he will offer amendments next week in an effort to improve affordability and choice.

Some Senate Democrats, along with a key moderate Republican, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), are now discussing ways to increase assistance for individuals and families who could face premium costs of up to $15,000 per year by 2016. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on Baucus’s committee, is suggesting government assistance to insurance companies to help them control premium costs. And lawmakers in both parties are questioning whether Baucus’s main revenue source, an excise tax on insurance companies for their most generous insurance policies, would simply be passed on to consumers.

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Friday Morning News

bd_morning_paper

California Wildfires

Arson caused California blaze

A massive fire that has charred nearly 145,000 acres in Southern California and destroyed dozens of homes north of Los Angeles was caused by arson, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said Thursday.

A homicide investigation has been initiated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department into the deaths of two firefighters as a result of the Station fire, said spokeswoman Rita Wears. The firefighters died Sunday in a vehicle crash while trying to escape fast-moving flames.

Arson fire is most unacceptable crime, Sheriff says

Massachusetts Senate Contest

Martha Coakley has officially thrown her hat into the ring

“We face a crisis of confidence. We have lost our distinguished and tenacious senator, Ted Kennedy,” Coakley said Thursday at an event surrounded by supporters. “We have depended upon him in the commonwealth and in Washington, and we will miss his strength, his leadership and his sense of humor. As some have noted, no one can fill his shoes, but we must strive to follow in his footsteps.”

Coakley is the first candidate on either side to officially enter the race for the seat that for more than four decades was held by Kennedy, who died last week.

On a more bizarre note, former Red Sox pitcher, and right wing nut Curt Schilling would not rule out running for the Massachusetts Senate seat.

“I do have some interest in the possibility,” Schilling wrote Wednesday on his blog, 38 Pitches (named after his uniform number with the Red Sox). “That being said, to get there from where I am today, many, many things would have to align themselves.”

A registered Independent, Schilling campaigned for George W. Bush in 2004 and for John McCain last year, and often vents, in populist voice, against Washington insiders who have lost touch with constituents.

Ted Kennedy’s Autobiography

Chappaquidick haunted me ‘every day of my life’

In a memoir titled “True Compass,” to be published Sept. 14, Kennedy called his actions in the 1969 car crash that led to the death of his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne “inexcusable.” When his car drove off the bridge, he wrote, he was afraid, overwhelmed and “made terrible decisions.” The senator was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and given a two-month suspended sentence.

Writing at the end of his life, as he struggled against brain cancer, Kennedy concluded: “That night on Chappaquiddick Island ended in a horrible tragedy that haunts me every day of my life.” Forced to live with the guilt over his failure to report the accident for hours, he acknowledged that Kopechne’s family suffered far worse. “Atonement is a process that never ends,” he wrote.

The Ongoing Health Care Nightmare

Health Care Idea Has Public Plan Only as Backup

As President Obama faces conflicting pressures from the left and the right over his proposal for a new public health insurance program, White House officials are investigating a possible compromise under which the government would offer its own health plan only if private insurers failed to provide affordable coverage.

No, Mr. O, that just isn’t going to be good enough. Think again.

Obama Will Lay Out Specifics in Health-Care Speech, Aides Say

Uh huh….I’ll believe that when I see it. Obama has never been specific about any policy yet.

Don’t be fooled by the public option

The fight over the public option has occupied much of the media coverage, but left unsaid is the fact that weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations have weakened the public option proposal to the point that it is hardly an option at all.

Who’s Blocking Health Care Reform Now? Blue Dogs? Senate Dems? House Progressives? Or the White House Itself?

The only obstacle to passage of the president’s health care — or health insurance legislation is the White House itself. Barack Obama knows better than any of us the difference between what he promised and what is about to be delivered. The undeniable difference is dawning on much of the public too, and is reflected in sagging poll numbers for Democrats and the president. The dozens of Democrats who have declared they will vote against any health care — or health insurance — bill that does not contain what they call a “public option,” are only trying to insulate themselves and protect President Obama from the worst consequences of his own treachery in selling out the vision of universal health care to big pharma and the insurance companies. They aren’t blocking the president’s bill. They’re trying to ensure that there is something in the bill they can defend to the outraged public who elected them to pass health care reform.

Black Caucus warns Obama on speech

Man bites off another man’s finger at Obama health care rally in CA

Ventura County sheriff’s deputies were called to Lynn Road and Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks near Los Angeles, according to TV station KTLA.

There, an estimated 100 supporters of healthcare reform affiliated with MoveOn.org had gathered as part of a nationwide array of pre-Labor Day rallies to attract attention in support of Obama’s reform plans currently before Congress.

Instead, the rally attracted the attention of a group of anti-healthcare-reform protesters across the street….

A scuffle ensued. And the pro-protester had a finger bitten off. (Updated at 8:18 a.m.: Conflicting later reports indicate the biter was a healthcare proponent and the now nine-fingered man an opponent.)

Interview with man who had finger bitten off at town hall

State Department

U.S. Suspends $30M to Honduras

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Thursday that the United States would formally suspend nearly $30 million in aid to the coup-installed government in Honduras. She also suggested for the first time that the United States might not recognize the country’s elections this fall if the ousted president was not returned to power by then.

How will Hillary Clinton, State Department respond to obscene behavior at U.S. embassy?

U.S. embassy in Kabul bans alcohol at guard camp

Torture

Report Suggests Physicians Experimented on Detainees in U.S. Custody

CIA doctors face human experimentation claims

The American Medical Association, the largest body of physicians in the US, said it was in open dialogue with the Obama administration and other government agencies over the role of doctors. “The participation of physicians in torture and interrogation is a violation of core ethical values,” it said.

The most incendiary accusation of PHR’s latest report, Aiding Torture, is that doctors actively monitored the CIA’s interrogation techniques with a view to determining their effectiveness, using detainees as human subjects without their consent. The report concludes that such data gathering was “a practice that approaches unlawful experimentation”.

Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the prosecution of Nazi doctors, set down 10 sacrosanct principles. The code states that voluntary consent of subjects is essential and that all unnecessary physical and mental suffering should be avoided.

Has everyone completely forgotten about MK-Ultra? More on MK-ULtra:

Project MK-ULTRA, or MKULTRA, was the code name for a covert CIA mind-control and chemical interrogation research program, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence. The program began in the early 1950s, continuing at least through the late 1960s, and it used United States citizens as its test subjects.[1][2][3] The published evidence indicates that Project MK-ULTRA involved the surreptitious use of many types of drugs, as well as other methods, to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function.

Project MK-ULTRA was first brought to wide public attention in 1975 by the U.S. Congress, through investigations by the Church Committee, and by a presidential commission known as the Rockefeller Commission. Investigative efforts were hampered by the fact that CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MK-ULTRA files destroyed in 1973; the Church Committee and Rockefeller Commission investigations relied on the sworn testimony of direct participants and on the relatively small number of documents that survived Helms’ destruction order.[4]

Although the CIA insists that MK-ULTRA-type experiments have been abandoned, 14-year CIA veteran Victor Marchetti has stated in various interviews that the CIA routinely conducts disinformation campaigns and that CIA mind control research continued. In a 1977 interview, Marchetti specifically called the CIA claim that MK-ULTRA was abandoned a “cover story.”[5][6]

Doesn’t anyone remember the Church hearings? Come on people, the seventies weren’t *that* long ago.

Afghanistan

Obama’s meaningless war

Gates open to sending more troops to Afghanistan

Afghanistan War is not slipping away

Famous last words before Gates goes the way of Rumsfeld?

Science and Nature

Are there specific genes that make us uniquely human?

New Antibodies to HIV found

Arctic warmest in 2,000 years

We’re all mutants, say scientists

Oddball News: Boston Gangsters

Famed Boston gangster Whitey Bulger turned 80 on Thursday.

Whitey Bulger needs his candles blown out

FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive

Where the heck is he, anyway?

Former mob underboss laid to rest

The Two Dons are Dead

Have a Fabulous Friday!!

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A Sad Anniversary

This has been hard for me to write. It’s part of the reason I haven’t wanted to write anything for a while. I didn’t think I’d be here at this point.

I started my blog because I was devastated that the US was torturing people. Worse, the powers-that-be were making excuses for it. The US has been guilty of crimes before. But in the bad old days that was just it: they were guilty. The thing was to pretend it wasn’t happening. Now they were doing something much worse. They were saying it was okay.

I come from a family that fled Communists, Nazis, and Fascists. (Yes, that was a lot of fleeing and it took three decades.) Maybe that’s made me hypersensitive to the ultimate personal price of dictatorships. They are horrible, awful, terrifying places and nobody really survives. You can try to escape with the clothes on your back, or become subhuman, or die. That’s all. There are no other choices. So it’s a matter of life or death to avoid that road at all costs. Never put so much as one toe on the path that ends in that hell.

There are two hallmarks shared by dictatorships: detention without trial and torture.

We’re doing both. We’re saying that committing crimes is legal. Is there any way to make the rule of law more meaningless?

At first, I never thought that people would stand for it. I knew there’d be a convulsion and the whole country would reject the lethal disease we had. But instead the shock became dulled. Too many people in the US patted themselves on the back for not being as bad as those other real dictatorships. We’d only put both feet on the beginning of the path. That was totally not the same as reaching the end.

You know what? Once you’re on that path, in terms of what happens next it doesn’t matter who started it. It doesn’t matter if you do nothing. All you have to do to reach the end is not get off. It’s downhill all the way.

I had to do something. The whole Government needed to be changed from top to bottom. The people who made excuses for it had to be changed. Corporations, media, education, it all had to be changed.

I didn’t know how to do any of that. What I did was start a blog in feeble protest, five years ago last May. I’d never understood how the Good Germans could stand by while their government went to the devil between the two World Wars. Now I know. I never thought I’d become the sort of person who could understand that.

I never thought I’d see liberals making excuses for bigotry and war, just because it was their own side doing it. I never thought it would hurt to remember how much hope I felt that the long nightmare of criminal government was coming to an end. I never thought I’d find out that it can get worse than having an unpopular dictator. You can have a popular one.

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A picture says a thousand words

Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism

Racism

Racism

Toture

Torture

Culture

Culture

Any questions?


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Not so fast with the primaries, Atrios

Atrios did his best Rodney King imitation the other day.  Why can’t we all get along?  We’re all on the same side now.  We all want the same things on this side of the lefty blogosphere.  We should be cooperating instead of attacking each other.  Nice for him to say.  No one was calling him a stupid, racist c*nt last year, not that any of the name calling is true.  It doesn’t really bother me.  It just tears that whole cooperation thing to shreds.

In theory, I have to agree with him.  The lefty blogosphere is pretty much in agreement with regards to what we stand for and we should be working together to shift power our way.  Then he wrote something that shows that he still doesn’t get it:

“There was that primary business, of course, though the less said about the better.”

{{clearing throat, warming up typing fingers}}

Duncan, may I call you Duncan?  That was the dumbest thing you have ever written.  Well, you may have written dumber things but I may have missed them.  The reason why the lefty blogosphere is so impotent right now has everything to do with the primaries and how we have failed to discuss what happened to us.

Let’s look at what actually happened last year.  Barack Obama ran a terrible campaign.  Oh, I know this isn’t the conventional wisdom but that’s why conventional wisdom is so often wrong.  Obama spent a king’s ransom on trying to win the big states on SuperTuesday.  He couldn’t pull it off.  Instead, he focussed his attention on the caucuses, which were far easier to game.  And game them he did.  We have the affadavits to prove it.  But at the end of the day, he still needed the delegates from a state he didn’t even run in in order to get the nomination.  It all came down to Michigan.  Forget what ever the Obots were screaming about The Roolz.  The RBC had to bend the roolz to give Obama the win.

He wasn’t on the ballot in MI.  He wasn’t entitled to diddly-squat. In normal years, we would have called this a very foolish political decision.

But here’s the kicker: It wasn’t a normal year.

The powers that be wanted anyone but Clinton.  Now, we may all speculate who these powers are.  Clinton started out with a lot of committed superdelegates but lost nearly all of them before the final primary.  We can guess that the billionaire bankers saw the writing on the wall and pulled their weight for the weaker candidate.  Hillary would have been rehab; Obama was an enabler.  Anyone who paid attention to Obama skirting away from any controversial or politically sensitive stand in the past several years quickly realized that he doesn’t have a principled bone in his body.  Throwing people under the bus is his operant mode.  Heck, he rarely even referred to himself as a Democrat. But whatever.  Someone(s) wanted Clinton to fail.  So, they rigged MI.

Please do not tell me that MI wasn’t going to count.  It was always going to count and count fully.  Withholding Clinton’s MI and FL delegates from her win column just made her look like a loser all primary season.  The whole thing was smoke, mirrors and psychological one upsmanship.  It was a haka.  We knew it but would people listen to us? But I digress.

The reason why the 2008 primaries are still important is because the powers that rigged them emerged triumphant.  Not only did they rig them and get away with it, they had the support of half of the people they were planning to screw with the continuation of Bush’s policies.  Obama has capitulated to the bankers, he’s capitulated to the religious right on gays and women, he’s making no effort to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and he’s become a party to torture.

The torture issue is particularly relevent in this case because the left has been the most vociferous in insisting that we pull back the curtain on what happened.  We have been arguing that if we don’t know what happened and who instigated it, we won’t be able to re-establish the rule of law, our consitutional principles and our honor.  Every one of our men and women in uniform will be subject to the same treatment in the hands of our enemies.  Every US citizen is at risk of abuse from powers both foreign and domestic.  We need to out the people responsible, figure out how they subverted the law and put a stop to it or we are all vulnerable. Therefore, we press our representatives to not just sweep this infamy under the rug.  We need to ferret it out and hold it up for examination of all its ugliness or it will happen again.

For the same reasons, we need to investigate what happened in the primaries and find out who was responsible both inside and outside of the party.  Those people invalidated the votes of more than half of the party by allowing the rules to be redrafted at the RBC hearing to favor Obama over Clinton.  If we do not, we will continue to allow the party power players to turn a deaf ear to anything the liberal and left side of the political spectrum stands for.  That means there will be more Joe Lieberman’s defying his party’s primary without penalty in 2006.  It means more Arlen Specters rather than Joe Sestaks in PA.  It means more Proposition 8’s in CA, more retreat in the face of the health insurance industry’s demands, more lax standards for the banking industry and more hearbreak for unions. And the primaries of 2008 are only a taste of things to come.  If we let things stand as they are, it won’t be long before the voting machines are rigged as well.  Voting will become a pointless exercise for show.  And when that happens, we as citizens will lose our right of self-determination.  THAT is why examining the primaries is so important.

The left is suffering from a moral sickness.  It wanted an outcome so badly that it was willing to sacrifice its own personality and principles to get it.  That sickness happened through clever psychological manipulation and unethical behavior on the part of the Obama campaign and its backers.  It is deeply rooted in the Democratic Party right now.  That party no longer has a foundation built on the working class.  It no longer stands for social justice.  It serves a new master now.

The left has been torn in half.  Our institutions have been bought off.  Congress doesn’t have to be accountable to us anymore because they were able to keep their seats by undermining us.  And the media, who Big Tent Democrat was content to let have its way, has become stronger than ever because the one candidate who was capable of neutralizing them by virtue of winning in spite of them, was stabbed in the back by her own party. At this point in time, it doesn’t matter if we all share the same values.  We are toothless.

The only way to get back on the right track as a movement is to take a good look at how we got to this spot.  It is going to be painful for many of us.  It requires a sort of Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Now is not the time for apologies.  Now is the time for unearthing the truth and for reflection.  It is time for us to achieve what the Greeks called sophrosyne.  That is, “moral sanity and from there self control or moderation guided by true self-knowledge”.  In Greek tragedies, the lesson was only cathartic if the protagonist came to this understanding.

What has happened to us has been truly tragic.  But we can’t fix it by pushing it under a rock and moving on.  We need to face it and deal with it so we can stop getting played.

“Let all the worms that lurk in the mud hatch out”


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Obama Administration Continues to Defend Bush Torture Policies

This is not unexpected, but still very dispiriting.

The Obama administration argued in court documents filed today that four former detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp who have sued over their treatment have no constitutional rights.

The suit was brought by four British men who say they were beaten, shackled in painful stress positions, threatened by dogs and subjected to extreme medical care during their time in the lockup at the US naval base in Cuba.

They also say they were harassed while practicing their religion, including forced shaving of their beards, banning or interrupting their prayers, denying them prayer mats and copies of the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, and throwing a copy of the Qur’an in a toilet.

Donald Rumsfeld, war criminal

Donald Rumsfeld, war criminal

Daphne Eviatar briefly summarized the case, Rasul vs. Rumsfeld, in the Washington Independent.

According to their legal complaint, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed claim they traveled to Afghanistan in October 2001 to offer humanitarian relief to civilians. In late November, they were kidnapped by Rashid Dostum, the Uzbeki warlord and leader of the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance. He turned them over to U.S. custody – apparently for bounty money that American officials were paying for suspected terrorists. In December, without any independent evidence that the men had engaged in hostilities against the United States, U.S. officials sent them to Guantanamo Bay.

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